Maricopa Wells Middle School

The Maricopa Wells Middle School boys basketball team celebrates winning its third straight Desert Middle School Athletic League championship in 2018.

MARICOPA — Lengthy commutes to the athletic events will no longer be an issue for the middle school athletes and the parents of Maricopa.

Board members approved joining the Signal Peak Athletic Conference for middle school participation in athletics at the Maricopa Unified School District meeting on Wednesday night.

Prior to joining the conference, MUSD was part of the Desert Middle School Athletic League, which caused students to travel up to two hours for their athletic events often on State Route 347, where single crash could add hours to the commute.

“The biggest complaint we tend to get from the programs is travel time to compete in the athletics,” said Athletic Director Jake Neill. “Joining this conference will reduce traveling an hour and a half to and from events, to traveling 30 to 40 minutes to events.”

Neill expressed that this is a positive move for the athletic program of MUSD.

Current middle schools in the Signal Peak Athletic Conference are the Casa Grande schools of Villago, Cactus, Casa Grande Middle and St. Anthony’s, as well as Sacaton and Stanfield. The Desert Middle School Athletic League contains schools from further away communities such as San Tan Valley, Coolidge and Eloy.

“I think for parents and students who are active in academics and athletics, give them opportunities so they don’t have to pick and choose and can participate in all of it,” said Board President AnnaMarie Knorr.

Board Member Patti Coutre said when she was an assistant coach for soccer, they had to leave at 2:30 p.m., with nearly 2 hours of class time left.

“I think it’s going to be especially beneficial not having to leave the classroom as early as they were having to leave,” Coutre said. “It’s a very welcome change.”

Coutre also brought up the fact the middle schools at MUSD do not have a track field and asked how they were going to incorporate track into their athletic programs.

Neill explained that track facilities on middle schools are often rare, but his hope is to have the high school track coach taking part in the middle school programs where they will be able to establish a relationship and have practices at the high school.

“The goal is to have our high school coaches involved with our middle school athletics programs and to build relationships with the younger kids,” Neill said.